Charter School Debate

Change.org introduced a new voice today on their education blog. Carl Anderson is here to give us his positive take on charter schools.

from Change.org

Our current home was built in 2007, just a year before we moved into it. While we have had some growing pains with this new place it’s structure and design are far more suited to how my family lives. Sure, the basement is not yet finished and the trees on our lot are not mature. We don’t yet have gutters or much landscaping. Our new home did not come with a washer and dryer, we had to purchase those ourselves. It does, however make us sleep a bit easier at night knowing that the home does not contain a speck of lead paint, that the home was built with energy efficiency in mind, and the air handling system actually works to control air quality in the home. These things were not possible with our old house. It is much easier to start from scratch and build a new home than to try and reform an old home to fit today’s needs.

I think schools are a lot like homes in this regard. Like my old house, our traditional school system was built to serve the needs of a different era. Yes, there are beautiful and irreplaceable things in old homes but the changes that are needed to modernize an old home need to be weighed against the cost and practicality of those changes. Sometimes it is better to build new.

So, how do we address this issue? One answer is to create new schools to address today’s students and prepare them for the world we live in today. This is largely how charter law came into existence. When the old house cannot be renovated to fit new needs it is often better to build a new one. Schools created by charter basically serve two purposes: 1. They attempt to better reach the needs of certain populations of students than their traditional counterparts; and 2. They can serve as testing grounds for new and innovative ideas in education.

Thanks for the intro Carl. I enjoyed the analogy. I love analogies in general, mostly because I am so bad at coming up with good ones.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the old neighborhood go. If we can keep something and improve the lives of the citizenry then I’m all for it. To save something just because of sentimentality can lead to a basement full of junk.

I lean toward supporting charters. They’re ability to get encourage teachers to pursue new techniques and technologies in the classroom is wonderful. I’m a reformer who believes we need to let teachers teach. We should be less concerned with the teaching process, as far as policy goes, than with it’s outcomes.

I do have some reservations about charters though. I would hate to see charters become marketing centers for whoever owns them. I’d rather they didn’t become a place where a certain ideology is ingrained in young minds. Then again, conscious parents would hopefully choose not to enroll their children in a place like that.

One must also be careful not to view charter schools as some sort of magic elixir for our educational ills. There are a variety of reforms we should be pursuing. To say any one thing will fix everything will lead to ruin. Be careful, that magic elixir could just be snake oil.

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